Property owners given more time to clean up locations in Quitman

By Brynna Williamson
Posted 4/11/24

Citizens and commissioners came head-to-head at Thursday night’s Quitman Building and Standards Commission meeting. With the tension in the air almost tangible, the board decided after nearly two hours of deliberation...

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Property owners given more time to clean up locations in Quitman


Citizens and commissioners came head-to-head at Thursday night’s Quitman Building and Standards Commission meeting. With the tension in the air almost tangible, the board decided after nearly two hours of deliberation to grant Kambiz Khadivi six more months to complete his renovations on the building at 222 Clark St. and to grant Joleen Wallace until May 10 to complete demolition efforts on her property at 511 N. Winnsboro Street. 

Both cases were opened before the board by the questioning of Nicole Corr, an attorney with Wyatt Hamilton Findlay, who was present on behalf of the city.

Corr presented her case via testimony of James Attaway, city administrator. Attaway testified that he was familiar with Khadivi’s building, having acted on an administrative search warrant to inspect it alongside a Bureau Veritas professional inspector. According to him, the building has multiple code violations.

“All the windows are off of it, one of the doors was unsecure; definitely what I would describe as a dangerous building and an unattractive nuisance,” he said.

Attaway read part of the Bureau Veritas’ findings aloud, which stated that the building has “exterior walls not properly supported by the wood foundation,” “missing siding and sheetrock from removal,” “fire, smoke or water damage,” and “holes in walls, floors and roof, allowing light, air moisture penetration,” among other concerns.

Khadivi, who lives in Dallas and operates a business purchasing and restoring historical properties, presented his case for more time on the basis of a lack of compatible workers in the area who would help renovate to his satisfaction. He also said that he had been commuting to Quitman to work on renovating the building, and that he has many of the materials already purchased to renovate what he says is a historically significant building. 

“I devote my life for American historical building(s),” he said. “I do the best I can to save this building. This is my dedication to old American buildings.”

Khadivi said he has already sunk $74,000 into the property and is passionate about wanting to renovate it.

“Have you ever restored an old building, an old car? You have to take it apart to put it back together. This is what I am doing right now, I’m not slacking,” Khadivi stated.

Although commission members Steve Glenn, David Dobbs, Jack Robinson and Brad Medlin said that they “don’t think it could be done in six months,” the board granted Khadivi 30 days to secure the property with a good fence, plus six months to finish dry-in on the property (drywall, insulation, etc.). He must send monthly progress reports, and the building must pass monthly inspections.

Glenn cast the lone opposing vote.

“I want you to prove me wrong. I don’t think you’re going to do it in six months; prove me wrong, sir,” he said.

Wallace’s case regarding the further demolishing of her building located at 511 N. Winnsboro Street (old Towner apartments) drew tensions even higher. 

Chris Kirklin, a neighbor to the building, signed up to speak during the public hearing portion of the case, in which he claimed that “(the property) looks like a war zone right now, but it’s down.” He also brought up several personal disputes with the property owner and concluded with the fact that he is “thankful” to be seeing the building and fence come down.

Corr said that although the building has already been torn down, the remaining piles of rubble are new code violations and could be dangerous for the community. Instead, Corr asked that the commission send an order to clean up the rubble, take down the fence and grade the property so that it’s “basically back to just completely bare dirt.”

Attaway testified that “it’s taken a long, long time to make (the demolition) happen.”

“That’s why we’re going ahead and moving forward with this hearing on this property, because we are concerned that without an order, that this rubble will remain, and it will not be properly cleaned,” Corr said. “We think that without an order from this commission, that’s not going to happen.”

However, Wallace, who said that she’s a licensed contractor with a construction background, argued that the demolition was a long time coming because she had received several surveys over a period of time which stated that the building had asbestos. According to state law, she claimed, a building with asbestos can’t just be knocked down; the asbestos has to be removed before the building can be demolished. 

“I want to make sure everything was done legally, and correctly. I want to do them right,” she said. “Yes, it looks like it takes a long time, but that’s the way it works when you have asbestos.”

After the asbestos was removed from her building and she received a letter from the state stating that her building was asbestos-free, Wallace obtained a permit to demo the building March 11, most of which was accomplished last week.

After this testimony, Wallace turned her testimony into rhetorical questions for the board.

“We’ve been hounded since the day we pulled it. Four days later (the Building and Standards letter) showed up. What’s the purpose of this document if I can’t demolish the property? Why am I still being hounded, when I’m following your procedures and the state laws?” she asked. “I’m sitting here going, ‘Why did I spend $50 to do this, and follow your procedures, if I’m going to continue to be harassed?’”

After she finished her comments, Quitman Mayor Randy Dunn responded personally. 

“I think I’ve been polite and professional every time I’ve talked to you,” he said. “But I have politely asked, ‘When’s this going to be done?’ ‘When is the building going to be out?’ Because we were constantly getting calls at City Hall (about it).

“How many times did I send you a text and say, ‘When are you going to get mowing again?’” he asked rhetorically. “We finally had to get to this point, because you did nothing until we got more serious on the phone.”

The board unanimously agreed to grant Wallace the full 60 days that her demolition permit allows in order for her to finish cleaning up the rubble. The final date for completion is May 10.

If Khadivi or Wallace fail to meet the commission’s outlined terms, Corr said that the city could finish the demolitions/cleanup and charge the cost to the property owners. If the property owners fail to comply, they could also potentially lose the property to the city.

After the BSC meeting was officially adjourned, the board took a short intermission. They re-gathered as the Quitman City Council to appoint alderman Brad Medlin as Quitman’s mayor pro-term in place of  Dobbs. Dobbs said that “it’s been an honor to serve in this capacity,” but that his personal schedule has made it impossible to continue to serve as the mayor pro-term. He will continue on the council as an alderman.

They also met for an emergency matter to decide what to do about a broken sewer line under the Wood County Appraisal District office’s parking lot. The 8-inch sewer line has been “temporarily fixed for now,” but needs immediate attention.

The council voted to circumvent the usual competitive bidding process and hire a contractor to fix 435 feet of the line for $90,417.50. They mentioned that “it may interfere with the parking lot usability,” as the line is 10 feet underground.